Tesco adds GI food labels to help dieters

Related tags Gi Carbohydrate Nutrition Tesco

The UK's number one supermarket is introducing new food labels that
rank a product according to its position on the glycemic index, a
system that measures the effects of food on blood sugar levels.

Tesco is calling the system 'a more moderate alternative to the Atkins Diet', and is targeting Britons' rush to slim down ahead of the summer months.

Using the Glycaemic Index (GI) to diet has already had a major impact on Australia's food industry and the UK market has been watching interest in the diet grow.

While low-carb foods are thought to be under development by a number of manufacturers, low-GI foods could be seen as a more 'sensible' way of reducing sugars and losing weight.

A low GI food will cause a small rise in blood sugar levels, whereas a higher GI food may trigger a large increase, causing glucose levels to rise rapidly. High GI foods are thought to raise risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes, both growing rapidly in many parts of the world.

And a study published this month in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition​ online (doi:10.1038/sj.ejcn.1601992) found that dietary GI and glycemic load were positively associated with cardiovascular disease risk factors among Japanese women who consumed white rice as a staple food.

Tesco said it will label foods as having a low or medium GI rating depending on their effects on blood sugar levels.

There has been some debate​ on whether food makers should refer to glycemic index (GI) or glycemic load (GL) on labels. They both give a measure of how blood glucose levels rise immediately after consumption of a food, but GL is related to portion sizes, whereas GI allows for an easier comparison between different products.

Tesco said it has been working with leading food scientists at Oxford Brookes University to test the GI rating of everyday foods to ensure they are accurately labelled.

The scientists have tested 50 Tesco brand foods for their GI ratings, including bread, pasta, ready meals and cereals. The GI labels will start appearing on food products later this month and a further 200 everyday foods have now gone into testing labs to be rolled out with GI labels over the coming months.

The move comes only a week after Tesco announced it is trialling 'traffic light' labelling on the front of own-brand products to highlight fat, sugar and salt alongside calorie and carbohydrate information.

Hamish Renton, Tesco GI project leader, said: "We've listened to customers and they have told us they want more information on the foods they buy. Many also want to control their weight but are worried about the health consequences of cutting out carbohydrates altogether."

"Gi means they can control their weight but they don't have to give up the foods they enjoy."

Tesco's Healthy Living range has sales of £450 million per year.

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